The Architecture of Sanctuary: Calistoga Ranch
To anyone who lives in Napa Valley, or in San Francisco or even on the Western edge of the United States, Calistoga Ranch is significant resort. Located in a secluded canyon in upper Napa Valley, The property is part of Auberge, one of the world's premiere resort companies. It has won multiple awards, most recently from Travel & Leisure and from Andrew Harper both in 2009. Calistoga Ranch is also a Luxist Awards nominee for Best Green Spa.
Being a guest there for a day or two, allows you to see how different the resort design is, and how the well the design fits with the needs of the guests or of the owners who own part of the fractional residences on the property. Located on 157 acres just outside the town of Calistoga in Napa Valley, California, Calistoga Ranch is one of the few seasoned hotels and Private Residence Clubs in California wine country, encompassing 47 guest lodges and 27 owners lodges.
However, unlike many exceptional resorts, a fascinating, yet unheralded Calistoga Ranch story lies just below the surface in its land discovery and subsequent architectural design. The story goes like this: the original developers were looking to create an exceptional project in Napa, but could not find acceptable land for the project. It was however discovered that 157 plus acres were available, but they were unsubdividable and zoned for recreational vehicle use. The developers looked at the land, full of California live oak, pine, manzanita, and cottonwood, with streams and a lake nearby, and realized that with the right architect, something unique could be created that would satisfy the zoning commission and the needs of future members and owners. And it was. It is built in a California modular style, with a site sensitivity that shows itself everywhere -- especially with the residences and decks built around the California live oaks. Each guest and owner lodge is comprised of a series of specific use spaces: one a living room, one a kitchen, one a master bedroom, one another guest room, averaging 1,200 square feet of indoor/outdoor living space.
The architect of Calistoga Ranch, Scott Lee, is Principal of SB Architects, based in San Francisco and Miami. " My original vision for the ranch sprang not from the question, "What should we put here?" but from our response to the questions, "What does the guest want?" and "What does this place want to be?" We listen to the land as well as to the needs of our guests. The design was entirely a response to the concurrent needs of resort guests, the developer, the operator and the site itself. Our charge was to create a private retreat, a sanctuary celebrating what Napa Valley is all about: food, wine and nature. In Wine Country, the bulk of the living is really done out of doors. We wanted to blur the line between what's inside and outside, inviting guests to participate in that tradition of outdoor living."
"The resort doesn't reveal itself right away.," he continued, "We designed and individually placed each of the more than 200 structures on the site, not only to avoid cutting down the 100-year-old heritage oak trees, but also to integrate them into our design. We interpreted the campground legacy through both the placement and design of the guest lodges and residences. Each guest lodge or residence is its own "camp," about 1200 square feet,made up of a cluster of spaces centering on the outdoor living space and fireplace, just as in a campsite. Elements such as outdoor showers and fireplaces augment the reference to the campground legacy"
And how does this affect the member? The style/aesthetic philosophy here is simple. Alain de Bouton clairifies it in his book, The Architecture Of Happiness. "We respect a style that moves us away from what we fear and moves us toward what we crave" In the case of Calistoga Ranch, the architectural design and interiors enhance the journey, away from the rattle of daily life to the destination of sanctuary and peace.